AGNPH Stories

Luca - 2nd Edition by Felix


Story Notes:

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of me,Felix9. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Chapter Notes:

After their arduous win at the Tournament Felix and the girls decide on a change of pace. While planning to take a cruise they decide to enter a pokemon contest as well. Running into family along the way, will anyone be the same when disaster strikes?

Chapter 4 - Contest Tragedy

The next day we set out to get supplies before we left, and believe me leaving was defiantly for the best. No matter where we went trainers were avoiding us. I didn’t mind the lack of challenges but it did hurt to see people avoiding Luca as if she were a ruthless brute. They didn’t know her like I did, and the only reason she had done what she did was because of that jerk Hariyama stealing and taunting her with the belt I had given her... the one that had helped her evolve!

As we walked through the city I knew Luca's new reputation was bothering her as well. Her ears remained laid against her head and her tail sagged as she followed close to me and Lady, almost afraid someone would attack her just to see if they could provoke her. I knew how to cheer her up, but after last night... I was a little embarrassed to. Still, she meant more to me than my anxiety, so I gently put an arm around her as we walked. A little confused she looked up at me and I gave her a kind smile. She couldn't help smiling herself and walked a little closer, the rest of the world seeming to fade from her mind. After that she was much perkier, which seemed to lessen the looks we were getting. Once again we were just a minor oddity of a trainer walking with his two rare pokemon.

After finishing our shopping we promptly started hiking away from town. I was browsing a guide book I grabbed at a store since I had no real idea where to head next. We were at least a month’s walk from home so that wasn’t the best course. The longer we walked though the more I thought we could really use a vacation. I saw there was a port city not too far from where we were, and there was a cruise ship due to dock there. I smiled and looked to the girls, asking if they might like to go. Luca about choked with the sudden offer, and Lady just yipped her approval with a wave of her tails. With a grin I pet her and looked to Luca who had yet to answer.

"Are you serious...?” She asked in disbelief. She knew what a cruise was since we'd talked about it when she saw one of the big ships on the TV. I suppose how I had explained it though made her think it was something we simply wouldn't get to do.

"Why not?" I answered with a shrug and a grin. Luca's expression brightened with enthusiasm as her tail started to wag.

"Can we go on the really big one!?" She asked excitedly as she put her paws together like she was begging. I pretended like it would be a hassle and hmmed before giving a seemingly reluctant agreement. Luca glared at me and growled softly, having caught my obvious ruse. I chuckled and ducked a swipe of her paw at my shoulder. Lady had trained her in battles so my Lucario wouldn't accept that I had ducked her attack. I laughed as I started to run, quickly followed by Luca as she tried to tackle me. Lady simply shook her head as she continued to walk casually down the path, pretending to be the mature one of the group...

I like to think I surprised Luca with how swift I was. She missed several times as she tried to tackle me and each time I was running away before she could turn to come after me. Soon enough Lady grew disappointed in her pupil and had to help catch me, just so I didn't forget my place...

Having lagged a fair distance behind me and Luca, the Ninetales used quick attack to catch up. Her timing was perfect as always because Luca had just vanished from where she stood as she decided to try using her new attacks as a trump card... Now partly fearing for my health I bolted down the path, looking over my shoulder as the fox closed in. When I looked forward though, Luca stood directly in front of me with a confident grin.

With her arms outstretched she tried to block my path. I faked left, then right, hoping she'd fall for it. It worked! I lulled her back and forth and with a quick dodge to the left I sidestepped the lunging Lucario. Nimble as ever she spun to give chase, just as a huge shadow passed over her head... Lady flew over both of us and landed in front of me, skidding to a halt with her tails writing. Her smirk was much more confident as she stood there with nine appendages, each capable of slowing me down enough for the others to completely entangle me. I had one chance...

If it surprised her enough I could escape this round too. I went for the one unguarded spot as I ran straight at the fox without flinching. Her tails flared outwards but I dove and slid through the dirt, right between her legs! Shocked her head followed beneath her as I slid. I saw daylight! I was home free! Until a tail twisted around my ankle thanks to Lady's lightning reflexes... I tried to kick it off but I had already stopped! It was too late. Even as I pried the first tail off two more seized the working hand. A split second later my other ankle was bound, then my other hand and finally my foot. For good measure she wrapped another two tails around my waist and the last two around my knees. I lay there writhing, fighting the grasp of the tails and trying to get up as Luca came to cast a shadow over my head, grinning like Lady was...

"Truce...?" I whined pathetically as I lay there with a sheepish smile.

"I suppose for now..." Luca teased and gave a nod to Lady, telling her I'd gotten the message. The proud fox slowly and threateningly withdrew her tails, dragging them along my body to make sure I wouldn't run again. I knew when I was beat, though it was fun to win a few battles for once!

Luca helped me up and we continued on, our spirits brightened considerably with the play fight. As we walked I would poke or prod one of the girls now and again and casually blame the third in our party. They would give me a soft glare and poke me back a short time later, acting innocent. I even got blamed when I didn't do it as well! Luca was too smart for her own good sometimes. She covertly charged a tiny aura sphere and tossed it at a tip of Lady's tails. It popped nearly silently and felt like a sharp pinch. Lady yelped and growled at me, flumping me hard in the face with a tail.

"I didn't do it! It was Luca I swear!" I protested as Luca laughed hysterically... Lady still didn't believe me and growled a warning to me for Luca to translate.

"~She says next time it'll be an iron tail...~" Luca repeated in a teasing tone and summoned a little ball at the tip of a paw pad.

"Ohhhh don't you dare..." I growled back, making her giggle and shrug.

"Fine... I'll save it for later." She continued to tease, giving me a wink and sticking out her tongue. I'd taught her too well...

On our way to our cruise ship we made only one stop in the town just before our destination. We were getting supplies for the last little leg our trip when I saw a flyer on the pokemart's bulletin board. It was for an open pokemon contest being held at the small stadium the town had. They had a celebrity judge passing through who had agreed to officiate the contest. Normally pokemon contests were for those trainers aiming for the grand festival. This one was just for fun with a ribbon offered as a prize, but anyone could enter.

"You want to?" I asked as I looked to the girls. Luca's face lit up and Lady waved her tails regally before they both replied with an eager, "Yes!" I should have known... what girl wouldn’t want to be in a “beauty show.”

So with our supply shopping done we went to the indoor stadium and registered for the entry round being held the next day. Since we would be staying the night we headed back to the pokemon center to get a room. As we walked I suddenly realized I had no idea what I was doing... These contests were a completely different monster than simple battles. I knew basics, showing my first pokemon and battling the other, but I figured I should get a hold of my sister and ask her for some pointers. After all she had won a grand festival before, which made her a nationally qualifying coordinator.

So once we had our room I went to the lobby to call home on the video phone provided at the center. Mom answered the phone politely at first but upon seeing my face her tone quickly changed... “Where have you been!?” She scolded in a half sincere and half joking yell. It was then that I remembered I was supposed to call her every now and then… oops.

It had been over a month since I had talked to her and a little over a year since I had been home. She spent a good five minutes telling me everything that had happened at home, then she asked how the girls were. I hadn't even told her Luca had evolved and I smiled sheepishly as the conversation turned to me.

“Uh, ya. This might be a bit of a surprise mom.” I said and looked to Luca with a smile and encouraged her to come talk with my mother. Luca stepped in front of the camera a bit shyly. Her eyes were down and her ears back as she hoped the woman she'd come to think of as a grandma approved.

“You evolved! Sweet Ho-oh Luca you’re gorgeous!” Mom gasped after a moment of silence. Luca's ears quickly perked up as she smiled and blushed under her fur. She yipped a happy, “Thank you.” that only I understood. Lady wanted to see mom as well and quickly interrupted us. The fox put her front paws on the podium and popped her head into the view to peer at the screen. “Well there you are. I was wondering where you had gotten to Lady. Be sure to keep those two in line ok? And make him call more!” Mom laughed, getting a bark of agreement from Lady before she got down to let me finish.

"Hey mom? Is Ashley there? The girls and I are in a contest and I have no idea what to do..." I asked, but was disappointed. My sister was still on the road. She and Whiskers had been away from home for more than a month collecting ribbons for this year's grand festival.

"She just called actually. She said she was entering a contest for fun today. What time is it...? She should be up in a little while." Mom continued. I paused, wondering if by serendipity she was at the stadium we just came from...

"Where is she again?" I asked and mom groaned as she riffled through some papers at the phone.

"Ahh! She's in Eicosane." She answered.

"What!? That’s where we are!” I blurted, shocked by the coincidence.

"You better get to the Stadium then. She's set to go on about now." Mom laughed. After saying our goodbyes the girls and I rushed out the door. They were more or less jogging beside me as I hurried as fast as I could. We could hear the crowd's cheers for the contest event that was set for tonight. I hadn't signed up for the show today so that we could prepare for tomorrow. Now I was doubly glad I didn't enter...

We made it to the stadium just as the second performer was taking the stage. Luckily we hadn't missed Ashley yet so we found some seats as close as we could to wait. The whole thing was new to Luca and she was eagerly watching the performers as her tail waved in excitement and awe. The smile on her face when the pokemon tried to make their attacks as beautiful as possible was such a wonderful thing to see.

When Ashley appeared at the curtain in a gorgeous dress Luca and I cheered her name and waved. To her it was normal though and she never batted an eye as she went into her routine with Whiskers. It was pretty obvious they were professionals, which I came to learn was why they were in the show tonight. My contest was for rookies and armatures...

When the two of them had finished the crowd roared its approval. Me and the girls gave our support but ducked out as Ashley left the stage. Waiting in the lobby near the competitor's room we managed to catch my sister as she came out for a break.

“What in the world are you doing here!?” She blurted as she blinked, not sure if it was me or not at first. I was soon wrapped in a tight hug though as she nearly tackled me.

"Oh you know... Just thought how hard can these contests really be?" I answered with a grin and earning a glare.

"Funny... Luca? Is that you?" Ashley asked my Lucario as she released me. Luca was once again being shy as she nodded.

"You look wonderful...! When did you evolve?" She asked, despite knowing Luca couldn't actually tell her.

"About a week ago now." I answered for her as my sister hugged the blushing Lucario.

While Ashley was glad to see us, Whiskers followed close behind her. She looked at Luca first wondering where the Lucario had come from, and gave a quiet growl at Lady, her way of saying, 'Great, you’re here too...?' The proud cat simply took a seat behind Ashley to wait for us.

I took the chance to catch up with my sister a little bit as the scores were being tallied to announce the final four competitors in Ashley's contest. She didn't seem worried in the least about the results, though she seemed hesitant about the next round. When I told her I entered the amateur contest tomorrow she gave me a confused look, and when I asked for help she laughed. More than a little embarrassed I looked away for a moment until my sister came back with a reply.

"I'll help if you do something for me." She said, already having something in mind by the sounds of it. It was rare that she ever asked me to do her a favor, and rarer still that the favor didn't in some way embarrass me publicly...

"I'm not wearing that dress..." I answered in a low, serious tone. Luca looked at me in utter confusion but I earned a smack on the shoulder from my sister. "Ow!" I yelped, rubbing my arm and grinning as she explained. I knew I deserved it.

"No you weirdo. This contest is two parts. Usually people use two pokemon for contests like these. It helps their scores a lot to have a new face." She explained and I quickly put two and two together.

"So you want me to lend you one of the girls?" I asked and Ashley nodded. She said the judges would let her register a second if she could find one before the second round began in two hours. I looked to the girls to see if they minded. Lady was doing it for fun and didn't particularly care, though the thought of showing up Whiskers was a motivator. Luca seemed excited as she smiled and nodded happily. Since they agreed I smiled and turned back to Ashley. "Who will it be?" I asked as the girls focused on Ashley.

"How about Luca?" She said happily, knowing Lucario were extremely rare in the battle scene, let alone in contests.
Luca was absolutely giddy after seeing my sister show Whiskers. Lady gave Luca a smile, happy to see her pup so excited. “Oh wait... I don’t want to show Luca before you do; it would hurt your chances.”

“Don't worry; I was planning on entering Luca in the first round tomorrow.” I replied. Though it might take away from the wow factor if she appeared twice, it was an amateur contest. Such a thing wouldn't hurt our chances at all.

"Awesome! Let's go!" She said happily and jumped up from her seat. She quickly took Luca's paw, tugging the Lucario with her as she yelped in surprise. Luca quickly caught her footing as she walked but looked back to make sure I was following.

The judge at the desk had Luca registered in a flash so we all went to the pokemon center to get ready. Ashley had her own room with two beds, one for her and another for Whiskers... So while Luca was dragged into the bathroom with Ashley, Lady and I made ourselves comfortable on the bed without the psycho cat lying on it.

When the hair dryer started up I simply hoped Luca wasn't getting too overwhelmed... My sister could go little nuts in preparations. When they came out though I could only stare. Luca looked absolutely fantastic! I was actually ashamed as I looked her over. I had never been able to help her look that beautiful. Her fur was silken, soft and flowing. It even had a gentle sheen to it. Ashley had even put soft curls in the fur at her neck and a little bit on her chest to distract from her breasts being the only thing there.

"Told you he'd like it! Just wait till he sees what we do tomorrow." Ashley giggled to Luca as she saw my expression. I could tell Luca was a bit overwhelmed. She froze as she met my eyes and I could actually see the blush cross her cheeks as she stood there. I knew it made her happy despite embarrassing her. Her tail betrayed her as it swayed behind her...

By the time Ashley got her hair done and a simple outfit on was about 30 minutes till show time for the first contestant. So we headed out behind the center into a small park where Ashley could give Luca some tips on her attacks. Lady and I followed quickly, wanting to see this as well as get a lesson ourselves. I told Ashley what attacks Luca knew, and included dragon pulse and extreme speed, even though I hadn't pushed Luca into practicing them since the contest had ended on a bit of a bad note...

Just as a warm up and a show for my sister Luca stepped out into the grass and did her usual calming breath. When her eyes opened I knew she was ready and I started rattling off attacks for her to fire at the rocks, trees, and air. First Dark Pulse, then Water, then Aura Sphere, and finally without warning I called for a Dragon Pulse. To both mine and Luca's surprise she never flinched as she charged a bright green ball of swirling energies before launching it in the air. She blinked, wondering if she'd really just done that so easily before the ball exploded in a beautiful cascade of green flaming wisps. Glad to have a little break she looked back at me in her shock. I just smiled at her, soon getting a proud smile back before she continued with her demonstration.

I tried to do the same thing with Luca's extreme speed. After launching into a quick attack and bullet punch I suggested extreme speed. I have to give Luca credit for her ingenuity because she rushed at a tree with her bullet punch but vanished as she swung, leaving a dissipating shadow that seemed to punch right through the tree. Ashley and Whiskers were both shocked as they started looking around, wondering where Luca had gone. Beside me though, Lady was surprisingly focused. Her tails were perfectly still as she tried to figure out where Luca would come from. The fox's eyes twitched to focus in front of us just before Luca reappeared. She stood with her paws behind her back, hoping Ashley approved of her skills. I had seen the tell as well... there was a little puff of dust where she stepped in the dirt just before she slowed enough to catch our eyes. At least now we might be able to tell where she was for our benefit.

Ashley clapped for Luca's show, having made a note of what she liked. For the next fifteen minutes Luca got a crash course in how to make her attacks a little more elegant but still effective. Ashley had her fire a few more pulses as she coached, and by the time we had to stop the air would shimmer for nearly ten seconds after an attack. Luca seemed to be having fun too. I sure hoped she'd still want to travel with me after this...

My sister was in the second match so she still had time to talk with Luca and get a bit of strategy down as we headed back to the stadium. Lady and I took our places in the stands while the three contestants went back stage. Ashley had a small wardrobe back there and I wondered what she'd dress up in.

The first match was pretty impressive as the opponents seemed to dance with their attacks. When Ashley, Whiskers, and Luca came out onto the field we were the first to cheer for them. My sister was garbed in a slim, bright blue dress with a gold necklace decorating her neck and the top of her chest. I had to admit... the look complimented Luca absolutely perfectly! The two looked like they had planned this for weeks as they took their spots. I could tell Luca was a little nervous as she took a look around at the cheering crowd. She found Lady and I in the stands and gave us a shy smile. We cheered but knew she couldn't respond. Still I felt my heart beating faster as I smiled back, happy she was having fun and simply admiring how beautiful she was...

Finally my sister's opponent was introduced to the same fanfare. Luca tore her attention from me to focus on the match. Her opponent walked out garbed with a rather pretty Sneasle dress complete with a pink feather behind her ear. Her pokemon, a Weavile, strode onto the field and planted a clawed hand on her hip, showing a bit of attitude for the judges. Right there I noticed something only I could. Luca should have relaxed when she saw her opponent. After all it was a dark ice type she was facing; she had a complete type advantage. The worry in her eyes lessened but my girl still seemed tense and rigid in her pose. My sister was just as focused as she tried to size up her opponent’s skill. Confused, it wasn't until later I realized it was because this was a contest. You could lose a beauty contest without losing the battle.

The judge started the match and Ashley immediately had Luca use both paws to charge an aura sphere over her head. Somehow she seemed even more serene than usual as she did it all with her eyes closed casually.

"Jump!" My sister commanded and Luca obeyed. She brought the ball down slightly so that as she gave a leaping pirouette a blue spiral blur trailed behind her attack. At the top of her jump her eyes flashed open and she fired the pulse. She used the kick back to reverse her forward momentum, sending her into a backwards somersault as she fell.

The Weavile smoothly back flipped out of the way just in time to let the pulse hit ground. Even an attack that should never miss can react in a split second. Dust enveloped the Weavile for a moment before she back flipped again and held her hands together. The trainer ordered an ice beam with a smooth wave of an arm and the Weavile obliged, firing directly into the cloud where it thought Luca would land.

The beam never connected though as it shot out the back of the cloud and dissipated. Weavile had fired to early, letting Luca land without harm amidst the now glimmering cloud of frozen dust. With a wave of her paws Luca summoned a water pulse with another command from my sister. The whole motion was fluid from beginning to release as she pitched the pulse at the Weavile's feet. Once more the she dodged, but this time straight up. Luca’s pulse exploded out in rings of sparkling water, dissipating the remnants of the ice cloud but leaving Weavile entirely unharmed.

I couldn't help feeling a bit odd watching the battle. Like the one before it was like a dance. Everything seemed to slow down though I knew they weren't moving any slower. Let alone every move Luca made seemed so focused and deliberate, as if she had intended to miss every shot so far. I never imagined that watching her from this perspective would seem so different.

Lady also seemed surprised and in a way frustrated at how Luca was battling. I realized though that this wasn’t “my” style, it was my sister's. And yet that didn't explain why Luca seemed so incredibly tense despite her graceful moves.

Luca's gaze followed the Weavile as she flew. With a twirl of her own she formed and threw a shadow ball at Luca. I was amazed at the show such a simple move could give. The ball was like a dark comet! A glittering tail of "dark" shimmers trailed behind a ball of coalescing shadows of purple and black. Much like Luca's attacks though, it missed its target.

The match was ended at that moment in a flurry of movement. Luca gracefully side stepped the shadow ball crouching as she spun and launching at the Weavile with a quick attack. Trailing a brilliant white halo and corkscrewing through the air Luca swung her paws outwards. The motion slowed her spins, letting her focus as she summoned two brilliantly glowing aura spheres. It was an impressive mix of lights as Luca pulled her paws back in and fired the attacks. Like twin suns, the balls spun in an orbit around each other as they sped from Luca half way through her jump.

Helpless in the air the Weavile was a sitting Psyduck... She reflexively crossed her arms in front of her, a last ditch effort to defend and endure the hit. Both spheres hit as one, exploding into a shower of sparkling blues and whites. It was quite a show but the Weavile was a slight black stain in the show...

Luca flipped forward as her momentum dissipated and she landed in a crouch before standing gracefully. The crowd was split as it watched. Half cheered for the obvious victor, while others were horrified... Making a show the Weavile had leapt quite high in the air. Luca's hit had thrown the pokemon off balance and further into the air!

After the hit she was disoriented and on the verge of losing consciousness. As she fell from the sky she weakly tried to correct her tumble but it was clear she was failing. In a worried panic her trainer tried to run but the Sneasle dress tripped her up after a few strides. Luca's ears twitched at the cries and her head jerked to the trainer then to the Weavile. The focused look in her eyes softened as she realized the pokemon would either be seriously injured or killed from the fall. As the Weavile fell into a head first dive she whined and closed her eyes, reserved to her apparent fate.

Luca immediately broke her "character", earning a soft growl from Whiskers when she saw Luca deviate from Ashley’s direction. Luca vanished as she used extreme speed, reappearing just below Weavile. In the blink of an eye she snatched the tumbling pokemon from the air just 6 feet from the ground. My Lucario flipped and barely managed to land on her feet as she cradled her rather large armful protectively. Falling to one knee Luca worriedly raised her head to look at the Weavile she held just as the pokemon's trainer came up to them.

Weavile weakly opened her eyes, wondering why she hadn’t hit the ground yet. Seeing Luca she seemed a bit confused but gave her a slight smile as she passed out. Luca blinked at the smile as she stood and laid her ears back in apology as she held the Weavile out for her trainer.

"Thank you..." The trainer said in a rush as she hurriedly withdrew her pokemon before giving my sister a quick wave of congratulations. After that she ran from the field, obviously heading for the center since her part in the contest was now over.

After Weavile was withdrawn Luca turned and walked back to Ashley. She apologized for acting on her own but my sister just gave her the same smile she usually gave me. "It's fine Luca. I'm glad you can react faster than I can speak." She said as she laid a hand on my Lucario's shoulder and turned her towards the crowd. Despite me being the only one who actually understood Luca, my sister was sharp. She knew exactly what Luca wanted to convey and what to say to make her feel better. Everyone cheered once more as the girls stood there, proud of their victory and sportsmanship. With a graceful walk all three left the field to clear the way for the next battle.

Lady and I made our way to meet Ashley and Luca in the lobby. When they came from the changing room I couldn’t help myself. I ran and wrapped her in a tight hug. “That was amazing Luca! You were stunning!” I praised as I let her go enough so she could meet my eyes. Of course she did, though the look on her face was horribly embarrassed. A blush tinged her cheeks purple as her wide eyes stared back at my admiring expression. Her ears quickly flattened from their upright surprise as she lowered her gaze to my chest. Unable to reply while she looked at me she murrmurred a soft "Thank you..." as she hugged me back in earnest. I could feel her shaking though as she did, and there was a waiver to her voice. She should have been happy but I knew what was bothering her.

"Let's go see. Ok?" I said softly to her as I put a hand between her ears to rub gently. Once more she shifted to look at me but this time she smiled as her tail wagged. My sister had the same intent so as I congratulated her we all made our way to the pokemon center.

In no time we were at the center asking Joy if a Weavile had just been admitted. As if there were any doubt the answer was yes, and after explaining a little the nurse was happily leading us back to see the pokemon and her trainer.

With the match over the rivalry and tension was gone. The girl was sitting next to the bed that held her partner, but when she saw Luca her eyes widened and she ran to my Lucario, throwing her arms around Luca and hugging her tightly. Needless to say, Luca was shocked. She looked to me for an answer but I was just as confused.

"Thank you..." She managed to say through a slight sniffle and released Luca enough to see her eyes before she continued. "If you hadn’t caught Nani when you did she wouldn’t have survived... I can’t thank you enough!” She finished as tears started to leak from her eyes. Luca gave a soft whine of guilt and gently pushed herself free of the girl's embrace. Doing the only gesture she knew how to truly convey regret and apology, Luca folded her paws at her waist and bowed, speaking as she did.

"She says she's sorry for hurting your Weavile. She was nervous because it's her first contest." I translated as Luca kept her head down. The girl looked to me, more than a little surprised at the exchange but it didn't seem to bother her after that. She smiled and wiped her eyed before she reached to take Luca's paws in her hands, making the Lucario look up at her once more.

"Don't worry. You were beautiful but just too strong for us." She said with a kind smile. "Thank you for caring about us though. I really can't say it enough." She continued as she hugged Luca one last time.

"How is your Weavile?" I found it in me to ask after a long pause to let Luca and the girl release each other.

"She'll be fine. She just needs some rest is all." She answered as she looked back.

"That's good. Would you apologize to her for us?" I asked as Luca came back to my side and looked up at me, silently hoping I would ask just that.

"I will. Thank you for your concern." She said kindly. After that Luca, Lady and I turned to leave. Ashley wanted to stay a while longer to talk to the girl, so we went back to our room to relax for a little bit. Luca seemed to feel much better after our visit but I couldn't help my curiosity.

"Luca how did you do that? Every move was so serene and flowing." I asked with admiration, but quickly wondered if I'd said something wrong. Her ears went back and she sighed tiredly.

"It was really hard... Your sister said I really had to concentrate and move smoothly. I'm just... not used to it. Even the way Miss Whiskers walks normally is flowing." She vented, and after that I understood. She didn't want to let Ashley down so at the cost of her own nerves she pushed herself as hard as she could. Maybe that was why her last attack had been such a hard hit as well... Focusing so hard on the appearance she put a little too much power into it.

"You did wonderful though Luca. You were gorgeous." I reassured her as I put an arm about her, encouraging her to lean on my chest. She happily obliged and gave me a soft hug too as her tail wagged. "Just relax ok hun? I know you don't want to let her down but Ashley knows this is just for fun and that you haven't done it before." I continued as I rubbed her back softly. "I definitely think you impressed her though."

"Ok." She said with more of a cheerful tone as she gave me a cute smile.

It wasn't long before Ashley joined us in the room. The little bit of guilt that had showed in her face was gone now and the five of us headed back to the arena. Despite the stress of before Luca and Ashley were already discussing tactics for the next round. Lady and I left them at the contestant entrance once more and went to find our seats.

We had missed who won the second round so I wasn't sure what to expect in Luca's opponent. None the less the crowd went absolutely wild for Luca, Ashley, and Whiskers as they entered the stage waving. Their opponent was introduced and something caught my attention... I thought I'd heard that name before. I looked over as he entered the stage but my feelings of dejavu only got stronger. It was Lady who figured it out first, but I wasn't far behind as he tossed his pokemon out. He'd seemed surprised to see Luca on the field but smirked as he tossed his ball. Lady whined and put her head on my leg. Reflexively I put a hand between her ears, but my heart sank as I stared. Luca's opponent was a Rotom...

As clear as day I heard Luca's electrocuted scream from the tournament echo in my ears. It was the same electric ghost now floating opposite Luca on the field! My gaze darted to Luca, franticly wondering how she would react. She was simply frozen, obviously thinking of the same scene I was...

The judge started to explain the rules as Ashley sharply called Luca's name to snap her out of her stupor. Luca shook her head as her ear twitched. Worriedly she looked back to Ashley. My sister saw the fear in her face and mouthed an encouragement. Luca nodded softly and turned back to the ghost, focusing on it with a sharp glare. By habit Luca gracefully waved her paws and took a step, falling into a defensive fighting stance.

The look on Ashley's face betrayed Luca's motion. It hadn't been planned, but my sister picked up that something was wrong. She simply stood straight, like she was the master approving of her student. My only consolation for this fight though, was that the ghost’s Empoleon companion wasn’t there to take hits this time.

The battle was started and the ghost immediately began sparking as it charged a thunder attack. With the same maniacal grin as before, it started to hover towards Luca. With a taunting sway to its float it was trying to scare her further, since she knew firsthand what its attacks felt like. However... While the swagger had me on edge it was the absolute worst idea it could have had. Luca was not one to be scared by the same trick twice. Her pupils narrowed to slits as she held her ground.

"Charge!" Ashley offered as she raised her hand high, having thought of a way to make this a good show. Luca picked up on her direction quickly, recognizing it as something closer to my style. She was trusting Luca to choose an attack that would be pretty and effective. It wasn't half a second after Ashley spooked that Luca neatly flicked her wrists, summoning two small dark pulses.

"GO!" Ashley barked as she dropped her arm after a dramatic pause, and just as the ghost released its stored electricity! I nearly covered my eyes but fought the urge. Not that it truly mattered... At Ashley's command a smile flashed across Luca's muzzle, but before the corners of her lips had curled she vanished! The crowd gave a collective gasp as the lightning struck where she was standing just a fraction of a second too late!

Stunned, the Rotom blinked in confusion. Its trainer was similarly dumbfounded as he looked at my sister for a hint of where the attack would come from. Ashley was as stoic as ever though. She stood there confidently, just staring back at him, knowing something bad had happened between Luca and this guy. "Now!" My sister called out simply, without even twitching an eye.

Rotom Sparked with energy as it looked side to side and even up. It was cracking under the tension, and when Ashley gave another command it started to panic. It was quickly snapped from its haze though as its trainer yelled. "Behind!" He yelled, just as a dark pulse blasted the ghost in the back. A gorgeous shower of purple, green and black sparks and shimmers formed a plume behind the hit. Rotom was hardly out though and fired a thunderbolt where it knew the attack came from. However, acting without its trainer's command and with such a sloppy move, it actually cost them points in this battle. Not to mention there was no target within 30 yards of the strike... Luca had vanished the instant after she fired her attack!

There wasn't a single soul in the audience that wasn't at the edge of their seat, awaiting the fast paced strikes from my Lucario. With Luca nowhere to be found I spared a look at the ghost. It was still floating where it started the match. As I watched I saw the ghost's expression fade to the same scared look that overcame Luca just before she was electrocuted. I smiled as I finally relaxed seeing that expression. I knew Luca had this sewn up and Lady noticed too. Her tails were wagging as Luca made her next move, though this one was personal...

The ghost was terrified because of what it could feel but not see. The audience held its breath as it watched Luca appear holding a glowing ball inches behind the ghost. After that first moment of satisfaction though, confusion hit me. That ball was an aura sphere... but Luca knew it wouldn't have an effect. A look to Ashley answered my question though. She had caught on this was personal and suggested the attack to demoralize their opponent. Of course Luca enjoyed the chance to turn the tables on the Rotom.

The ghost had no idea what the attack really was. All it knew was that there was a blue glow and a buzz directly behind it. Luca fired the pulse a moment later and the ghost shut its eyes tight as the pulse flew straight through it. Its form distorted briefly before a cloud of dust enshrouded it. Luca jumped into the air after firing the aura sphere, preventing the dust from sullying her fur. As she flipped though the air once she beautifully charged a water pulse. She tossed the pulse back into the lingering cloud. The pulse hit where the ghost had been, sending waves of water out in all directions and clearing the dust from the air. But the ghost was nowhere to be seen... It had taken the chance to go invisible and try and regain control of the match.

I couldn't help but wonder if Luca was doing this on her own though. She seemed much more at ease with the pace, but the swift decisive cruelty was starting to frighten me a little... With the brief lull I looked to my sister. She was just as intense as Luca, and as the next opportunity hit she barked out an order to my girl. It eased my mind quite a bit. Luca wasn't out for blood; it was just an intense battle that happened to have a personal background.

With the waves of water radiating from Luca's pulse something was bound to hit the ghost no matter where it was. It couldn't have gone far even if it was invisible. Ashley saw it first, but Luca was only a split second after, a small spark near the center of the arena. Ashley pointed and yelled her attack. Luca twisted in mid descent, doing a 360 while charging a full power dark pulse in both paws. She reached the end of her spin just ten feet above the ground and fired the pulse where the spark had appeared. The attack gave Luca enough backward momentum from recoil that she gracefully executed a back flip before sticking the landing in a perfect fighting stance.

The ghost was frustrated as the water caused it to spark and reform just in time to get hit by the shimmering dark pulse. It buzzed and surged with energy as the attack cascaded the now familiar dark tinged rainbow of glittering shards in a cone behind the target. It locked gazes with Luca as its glow faded and recovered in a kind of worn out pant only a ghost possessed. Finally the ghost's light dimmed to unconsciousness and it collapsed to the ground. The confused look remained on its face even as it drifted off. No doubt it was wondering how the Lucario that had struggled so much against it before had quite simply mopped the floor with it.

Lady and I were the first to cheer when they declared Luca the winner, she had done it! She had won the very first contest she had ever been in. We watched the ribbon presentation ceremony and left a little early to catch contestants at the stage exit to congratulate them. When they finally appeared I hugged Ashley and thanked her quietly. She was surprised at first but returned my embrace and thanked me as well. As I released my sister I could tell she was glad she got to show Luca and win with her, even though it was probably a onetime thing. She smiled up at me as we looked over to see Lady had tackled Luca, pinning her on the ground and licking her furiously. Luca yelped and laughed as she tried to wrestle free.

"What happened with that ghost?" Ashley asked me softly, not wanting to trigger Luca in any way.

"We faced it and an Empoleon in a tournament a few days ago. We barely won and the Rotom really hurt Luca." I explained briefly as Luca finally figured out how to stop Lady. If the Lucario hugged the fox's head the tongue couldn't blind or get her wet. Both girls were growling playfully until they conceded a truce, which was quickly broken with a flump of a tail in Luca's face as they stood... Luca giggled through a soft glare and growl as she swiped at the tail, vowing revenge. She looked at me though, wondering if I thought she did well too. I smiled at her and wrapped my arms around her. I pet between her ears as I told her how proud I was and how beautiful she was. Her tail wagged furiously as she hugged me back, unbelievably happy I approved.

My sister seemed to understand after my explanation but she let it drop for all our sakes as we headed back to the pokemon center for the night. We called our mother as soon as we got there and told her all about the whole thing. Luca was beaming the entire time, extremely happy that she had helped Ashley and made me proud at the same time. With well wishes from mom for my own contest the four of us headed to my room to plan.

As Ashley undid the basics of her costuming and makeup she advised me on what I should do tomorrow. I already knew I would be using Luca in the first round and Lady in the second. Ashley thought that was best as well but reminded me to give a good show in the second round. Even though it was a battle it was judged as a beauty pageant, and if I lost all my points it wouldn’t matter if I could win the battle. My sister continued to instruct me on the second round since I would have to try and suppress a lot of my normal habits to do well in it. It may have only been the basics but it was quite a lot to take in all at once.

Finally she stopped to let me absorb the last of it. After all that we pretty much had everything figured out for the second round. Lady was listening as well so I hoped she would be able to help me remember it all... It was then that I realized none of this mattered if I couldn't win the first round!

"Wait... What about the first round? What should I do there?" I asked, hoping it wouldn't take the rest of the night to explain as my sister sat on her bed and pet Whiskers.

“That’s the hard part for you. You have to make every attack look as good as possible and amaze the crowd at the same time. Luca on the other hand... Should have no trouble.” She replied, giving Luca a smile and getting a giggle in return.

"Yeah but I don't want to blow it for her either!" I retorted, making Luca giggle again before she leaned and hugged me.

"You won't Felix." My sweet Lucario encouraged.

"Well I have some ideas so let’s see what we can come up with for you Luca." Ashley continued. Luca released me and the two of us listened intently, but chipped in with some ideas of our own here and there. I like to think I surprised her with a few of my ideas but she’d probably already thought of them. She also told us it was good practice to limit yourself to a ten attack maximum and a five minimum. Anymore and the routine gets long and boring, any less and it’s not a good demonstration of your pokemon’s skills. After another hour of planning out a routine for Luca, virtually step by step, my sister said she had one last thing to take care of.

"Lady, Luca. Come with me." She said with a happy enthusiasm.

"What are you doing? Remember what happened last time you tried to dye Lady's fur..." I answered, smiling a little as I saw Lady's step falter just slightly.

"Funny... You'll thank me for this later. Now shut up and let me create." She answered, giving me a theatric tone as she finished.

“Ohhh... Good Luck you two!” I said with a hint of sarcasm as I lay back on the bed. My sister and Lady rolled their eyes but I saw Luca snicker as she and the others left me alone in my room.

While the girls were with Ashley I got ready for bed. She was taking her time doing who knows what and I accidentally fell asleep before the girls came back. Little did I know that I was in for quite a surprise when I woke up the next day...

I was awakened rather rudely that morning. Ashley tossed Whiskers on top of me as I slept. I was quite abruptly awoken as 16 sharp claws dug into my chest... "ACK!" I gasped as I scrambled, sitting up instantly and clutching the lightly bleeding wounds as Whiskers nonchalantly jumped down to take her normal place next to Ashley. With a groan I opened my eyes to glare at my sister. She snickered but I forgot all about my anger as I saw the girls standing with her. Sure, Lady was glaring at Whiskers for what she'd done and Luca wore a worried look seeing me wounded, but they both looked... well, there were actually no words for how stunning they looked.

I gapped as I looked them over. Lady’s fur had a glossy shine and was as soft and flowing as silk. The fox also had a blue scarf around her neck that was the same color as Luca's blue fur. As for Luca, her fur had the same glossy sheen and feel as Lady's but there was something else. It wasn't just the curls my sister had put in her fur again. There was something about her that had my heart beating in an approving stupor but I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was... All I could do was sit there and gawk at how beautiful they were. Seeing I wasn't actually hurt Luca blushed lightly and looked away as she noticed I was staring mostly at her.

“Well what do you think, and pick your jaw up off the floor you dumb boy!” My sister said in an attempt to break the awkward tension. It worked well enough, though I blushed as I blinked my gawk away and got up from the bed. When I finally moved my sister turned to the girls. “Well let's go get some breakfast.” She said and put her hands on Luca's shoulders to encourage the Lucario to follow. She hesitated but turned to follow as Ashley led Whiskers and Lady out. Luca was last in line as they filed out the door but before she left I managed to find my voice.

“Luca, wait!” I said as soft as I could. She stopped at the door as her ear twitched at her name. She turned as I came closer and stepped back into the room. I was still only half dressed with pants on as I looked her over again. “You look absolutely gorgeous.” I managed to say a bit shyly as I hovered my hands next to her shoulders, not wanting to touch her and ruin such pristine looks. As I looked back to her face I saw her blush deeply. Her ears always went back in embarrassment when something caught her in such a way and when she blushed that deeply her cheeks tinged a slight purple through her fur.

Forever modest, and thankfully so, she lowered her gaze from mine as she whispered, “Thank you.”

I smiled at how cute she was and couldn't help myself. I put my arms gently around her and gave her a soft hug as I continued. “You never cease to amaze me. Arceus I love you.” I said happily. In my head I hadn't meant for those simple words to carry as much weight, but as they slipped out I had to fight the urge to correct myself as I held my beautiful girl in my arms. It was better if I just let her dismiss it as a normal show of affection. She definitely didn't need to know I'd started thinking of her as more than my little Riolu...

By her reaction I wasn't sure whether she had caught me or not. She seemed a bit surprised as I hugged her but when I spoke she had embraced me in return and nuzzled my bare chest. I saw her silken tail sway behind her even as I felt something wet on my skin. I released her gently and gave her another smile as I wiped her eyes for her, trying to play everything off as just another normal day. “We better get going before Ashley gets impatient." I teased softly as she smiled sweetly back at me. "Always remember though ok? I love you no matter what happens.” I continued, once more trying to throw her off my trail. She met my eyes with those red beauties I loved so much, and with a soft giggle she darted her muzzle forward and gave me a peck on the lips. Shocked, I barely heard her yip out, “I love you too!” before she was running out the door. I stood there more than a little dumbfounded for the better part of a minute. She hadn't said "Feli" or "Felix." Why did that make those words sound so different? And why was I the one left wondering just what she meant by it...?

It didn't take me much longer to finish cleaning up and getting ready. I put on the best clothes I had and from Ashley's appraising look as I entered I could tell she at least wasn't opposed to my choice. I sat down with the girls so we could go over the last little details. Despite the unexpected work I was still excited to compete in a contest with my girls, and with how they looked right now I was sure we couldn't lose. As we ate I decided to ask my sister what she'd been up to the past few months. After all she'd been out on her own trips.

To answer my question she pulled her ribbon case out of her bag. I wasn’t a bit surprised to see she had four of the five ribbons needed to enter the regional grand festival. From what I saw yesterday, the ribbons where probably a breeze for her to win. The problem she had though, was that she didn't know where to go for her fifth. She'd won or competed in all the local contests, so any others she was eligible for were quite a ways away.

Unlike me, my sister didn't like to hike to her destinations. She usually found a ride with a friend who had a car or had our parents take her with the family car. The main reason I suspected was because she had quite a bit of luggage associated with her costumes and makeup. Still I hated to see her miss out on the festival just because she couldn't get a ride somewhere. I thought for a moment before I remembered the guide book I had picked up after the tournament. Sure enough, there was a contest guide listing halls and grand festival entry contests. The better part was one of the towns was the destination of the cruise ship the girls and I were going to take.

"Well how much do you have saved?" I asked as I showed her the correlation.

"A cruise?" She asked in confusion, but seeing Luca's ears perk as the Lucario got a little giddy she realized I wasn't kidding. "Really? You're already going?"

"Yup. I figured after our tournament last week we needed a break. Plus the prize money was more than enough. Heck I could buy your ticket if you'd like." I answered. Half convinced she took the guide to check the schedule for herself.

"Would you? I'm running short even with winning yesterday. I was going to have mom and dad come get me tomorrow." She asked, sounding rather hopeful now.

"Of course! It'll be fun. Just don't tell mom. If she finds out we went without her we'll be in big trouble..." I answered as I faked a worried look. For a moment Luca seemed genuinely concerned that my mother would be mad, That is, until my sister chuckled.

“Oh Jese! We gotta go!” Ashley exclaimed as she caught sight of the clock on the wall. It was ten minutes till my contest started! Being quite unsophisticated at the moment I stuffed the last of my donut in my mouth as I grabbed my things. The five of us hurried to the stadium, making it just in time. Ashley bid us good luck at the contestant entrance and left to find a seat while we went to get in line. Before going on stage I hugged my girls one last time and told them both how pretty they were. Lady wagged her gracefully folded fan of tails and Luca just giggled softly in response. When our names were called we walked out as calmly and gracefully as we could, though by far I was the sore thumb of the three.

Opening ceremonies were pretty boring once we were introduced and on stage; we only had to stand there while they introduced the others then recited the general rules of the contest. Luca and I were up second though so we didn’t have long to wait after the ceremony dismissed.

When our names were given in fanfare for the first round, I gave Luca one more smile before strolling out with Lady at my side. She wasn't part of the show but she definitely added to my appearance. We stopped in the trainer's square and stood calmly where we were before a rather confused crowd. Everyone expected me to throw a pokeball, releasing Luca in a flurry of stars or some other light show. Our approach was far different. My sister approved greatly, knowing the judges would appreciate something original.

Just as the crowd started to murrmurr about my pause Luca suddenly appeared at her place in the center of the field. On one knee as she materialized she waited for the small whisps of dust stirred by her arrival to scatter before she slowly stood up straight and proud, giving the crowd a good look at her shining coat and beautiful smile.

The crowd went nuts as she looked around; taking in the praise that only seemed to spur her on. The judges started taking notes, their trained faces devoid of any indication as to their opinion. Three out of more than a thousand people failed to bother Luca though as we went into our routine. With the crowds encouragement we started with dragon pulse thrown straight up. Luca spun slowly as she waved her paws this way and that, collecting the air it seemed into a stunning ball of swirling pearlecense before she quickened her spin and brought the ball up and fired. Without pause she slowed and dipped her stance lower this time as she continued to spin and dance her paws to and fro. This time a rippling blue ball formed which she promptly threw in exactly the same motion.

The balls collided perfectly in mid air as the dragon pulse reached the top of its arc just as the water pulse met it. The two exploded high above the arena with a sizzling chorus and shot out shining water droplets mixed with small green flames. The drops reflected and refracted the flames as they cascaded around the entire field, setting the stage for Luca to continue.

As the shimmering remnants reached her height Luca started to dance around the stages center circle. She melded her fighting forms perfectly into a circular dance as she followed my next request. As her paws waved and moved through the air she charged small, six inch dark pulses and occasionally flicked one into the air. She always held at least one though, and it trailed a purple streak of light. The ones she threw popped wonderfully amidst the still falling water and flame from her first attacks, adding another layer of shimmering colors to the show.

As the cascade finally started to fade Luca's dance ended where it had begun with her at center stage. She stood with her feet together and her arms outstretched above her head. The crowd cheered, thinking the show was over but it was time for our finale.

"Wrap it up with Dark Pulse and Aura Sphere!" I said happily as I pointed a finger dramatically. Luca's ear didn't even twitch as she took her cue. Luca opened her paws above her head, instantly summoning the attacks in massive foot and a half wide balls of crackling energy. Her eyes stayed closed the whole time, but as she took her cue she opened her sparkling red eyes and smiled at the crowd before she completely vanished.

The crowd was silent as it waited for what came next with baited breath. It was only a few seconds later that the two spheres collided high above center stage from opposite directions. I could hardly contain a chuckle as I watched the crowd's reaction. They all jumped in shock but quickly cheered as yet another shower of glimmering sparks rained down around the whole arena. Even as they applauded Luca reappeared in the exact pose she had been before she disappeared. Even her feet were precisely where they had been when she left the stage. The only difference was that Luca allowed herself to breath now that her show was done. With small pants she gave a grand bow to the audience amidst the fading sparks, then faced the judges and gave another grand bow as a thank you. After that she turned and gracefully strolled to meet Lady and I in our spot.

I smiled as I watched her come near. I could tell she was concentrating on making her steps perfect, but she still smiled back and wrapped me in a hug as we met, a gesture I was already returning. The crowd was almost deafening as it cheered its approval for Luca’s performance and the trust and love we showed between us. A quick glance to the judges showed them scribbling furiously between whispering comments to themselves. I caught a couple of nods of agreement and one even cracked an approving smile as he did. I was confident we'd passed the test, and it was all thanks to Luca and my sister.

The moderator gave our names once more and the three of us gave another bow before leaving the stage. It felt wonderful to hear such approval of my girls, and I could tell Luca was overjoyed they approved of her performance. The results wouldn’t be up till all the contestants performed so we met Ashley and left the arena to take it easy for a while. When Luca and I came out of the back room though Ashley gave Luca a tackling hug, nearly knocking the Lucario over! She yelped as she was attacked and blushed as my sister praised her beauty and style. I simply chuckled at my cute little girl, as well as the insulted Whiskers, who hated when anyone but her got praise from my sister.

Me and the girls weren't taking things for granted but the three of us headed back to the park behind the pokemon center to practice and get Lady ready for her matches. Ashley was certain we would move on but even if we didn't it felt amazing just performing in the first round. My sister decided to watch our competitors rather than accompany us, so I got some time alone with my girls for the first time in a day.

When the last contestant had performed Ashley found us on a bench at the edge of the park. I was petting Lady, scratching her favorite spot behind her ear while Luca sat with me, happily leaning on my shoulder. It was hard for me to make Lady practice. She looked so gorgeous I wished I could have just made her a living statue. Lucky for her though, I settled for a picture of her and Luca in the soft grass.

We did practice some techniques though, and taking the hint from my sister, I had Lady work on making her attacks hotter. The waves of heat her flames gave off distorted the air in an eerily beautiful way. However, the other effect our training had, was that as the flames left her muzzle they were actually blue. It wasn't a lasting color but those six inches of blue flame were very noticeable and eye catching.

When my sister found us we headed back to the arena to see the results. Only the top four performances would move on to the semi finals, and out of sixteen it was a little nerve wracking. Ashley didn’t seem the least bit worried though, which was quite comforting. They began announcing the winners as we entered the lobby and paused to look at the display screen. The 1st place trainer's picture flipped into position on the tournament tree, but it wasn't mine… My heart sank slightly as we watched; disappointed that Luca's performance hadn't been the best. Luca didn't seem bothered though, which struck me as funny. After all our time together our roles were reversed...

"2nd! Luca and her trainer Felix!” The announcer recited over the PA system, snapping my attention back to the screen. We were in second! Luca squealed and threw her arms around me, her tail moving a mile a minute behind her.

"We did it! We did it!" She yipped happily as I laughed, blushing at her display gathering the attention of a few other trainers. The announcer continued but I missed the other contestant's that made it. My sister seemed to approve of the choices though so I knew this would be a tough second round.

Now that we knew we were in the next round Ashley was reciting her tips left and right. Foremost was that I shouldn’t rush in and go for a knock out. If the other pokemon managed to steal enough of my points we wouldn’t last long enough. Once again I was hit with the realization that these contests were hardly simple. There were so many tricks and rules I felt like my sport was the easy one. I mean... all I had to do was battle until one of the combatants went down. What was so hard about that? Never the less, I was more than a little nervous as we went back stage. Trying to remember everything, as well as battle effectively, while having to ignore my usual, relatively sloppy battling... Now I knew how Luca felt fighting for my sister yesterday...

"Felix? Just relax. It's not that bad." Luca offered a little shyly, seeing I was getting worked up. I gave her a soft smile and a nod, earning her own sweet smile in return before the three of us took to the stage. This time Luca remained at my side while Lady gracefully walked out and sat in her place on the field with her tails cutely weaving amongst themselves behind her.

My opponent wasn't far behind, and promptly sent out an Absol amidst a flurry of holographic moons. It was a display yes but I felt there was something to be said about the way I kept my girls. Anyone can make a display with a pokeball. It took personality to give the display Lady was.

As the judge gave a summary of the rules I focused my attention. I could see Luca was doing the same in her head by the way her right ear would twitch now and again. She knew she would have had a type advantage if it was her, but she still wasn’t worried. She knew Lady was no push over.

Finally, the judge asked me and my opponent if we were ready. When we both agreed the judge waved his microphone as a flag, beginning the battle! Lady gingerly rose to all fours with the battle's start. Her tails continued to wiggle and sway the whole time, though their pace started to quicken keeping the pace of the battle. The Absol was the first to charge, running at Lady with springing bounds at its trainer's commands, clearly displaying its agility. When it got to mid field though it leapt straight up! Lady's gaze never faltered but I was caught a little off guard. The moves before seemed pointless... though in this contest they weren't. The Absol performed a mid air back flip as it growled out its name. The horn on its head flashed green as it flipped, sending a shimmering green blade slicing through the air.

"Zigzagging quick attack!" I commanded, barely getting out the whole command before Lady was off. Nimbly she bounced back and forth with progressively longer darts, tracing a perfectly spaced pattern on the field as she trailed a glistening white energy behind her fan of tails. The Absol's attack exploded in green at the beginning of the white light, creating a wonderful effect that almost certainly won us points. As the Absol landed amidst Lady's blur though, she immediately reversed direction, rocketing straight through the center of her previous lines and directly toward the Absol.

Caught entirely off guard the canine was broad sided a split second after it landed. It kept its feet though and executed another quick flip to dissipate the hit's momentum... Lady continued to focus on her opponent while I contemplated our next move. She stood as graceful as ever where she'd hit her opponent, her tails seeming to writhe now, as if they were Arbok's waiting for an opening to strike.

Of course the Absol and its trainer weren't going to wait for me to decide on my next move. With a sharp command the Absol leapt again, this time intending to arc over Lady's head as it gathering shimmering sparkles from the air into an impressive dark pulse at the tip of its horn. Despite admiring the attack, I had an idea...

"Vertical heat wave!" I suggested to my Ninetales, which of course she obliged. She lowered her stance just slightly as the air around her started to distort, and just as the Absol released his attack down at her she let out a haunting but beautiful howl with her attack. It was as if the howl itself ripped in the air as the heat was released skyward!

The Absol landed behind Lady and spun in a skidding halt to see if its attack had hit. What it saw shocked it as well as the crowd. Lady had managed to catch the attack! The pulse didn’t explode when the heat wave hit it. Instead it floated like a buoy on water at the top of the blistering fountain. It was a truly impressive feat, but it gave me another idea.

"Iron tail!" I barked quickly, not wanting the Absol to attack again. Lady knew exactly what I wanted her to do and parted her muzzle, making it look as though that simple act relinquished control of the heat.

Without its fountain the dark pulse started to fall again. It buzzed as it dropped, right into Lady's batting range... With a cute spin that looked as if she were chasing her tails, Lady charged her tails to a glowing white. As the ball threatened to strike her she dug her front paws in and whipped the ball back at its owner with a gentle but firm strike from the glowing fan!

To me it seemed like minutes went buy as I watched, but it was only seconds. The Absol had expected Lady to rush it with tails aglow amidst the backdrop of its failed attack, so it had planted its feet, intending to stand its ground. When its own attack flashed towards it though, it yelped and rolled to the side, caught entirely off guard. It quickly refocused though and gave a long low growl as its horn started to glow a bright white...

I knew it could be one of many different attacks, but as I watched the dark pulse explode against the arena wall behind it... I realized something. This Absol was putting far too much power into its attacks. It wasn't because Lady had been gentle with the pulse. It was because it was so solidly packed with energy that her attacks had failed to trigger it!

"Dodge! Get out of the way!" I worriedly shouted to Lady, but it was too late. As she heard my command and let her glowing tails finally fade the Absol charged... It sliced its horn upwards in a desperate attempt to regain control of this battle. The fox tried to jump to the side but the attack pivoted perfectly, hitting her with pinpoint accuracy.

I felt like I'd been stabbed in the heart as I heard Lady yelp in a sharp pain. The critical hit knocked Lady out of the air and onto her side, sliding a painful fifteen feet before she stopped amidst the dust. Her shining coat was dulled and she seemed angrier than I was worried...

I knew I couldn't afford to worry about her right now, lest I get her into a worse situation, but Luca standing beside me with her paws covering her muzzle didn't help my confidence... All bets were off now though. The contest part of this battle had been thrown out the window. Still, I was lucky Lady retained enough forethought to keep her attacks looking absolutely stunning.

"Quick attack!" I yelled as she quickly rose to her feet after the hit. My words barely had time to reach her though before she was off and running. The Absol slammed into the ground where she'd been with another glowing green blade, but before Lady got too far I shouted again. "Jump and fire blast!" I barked, and she did exactly as told. In a near impossible move only she could conceive, she tucked and rolled from her run. It looked as if she'd tripped but her tails came around to act like a spring. Their tips dug into the dirt and as she righted herself in the opposite direction they pushed off the ground, propelling her forward with near the same speed as when she'd started. The crowd was in awe as she bounded once and leapt into the air with flames licking at her muzzle lips. Now was the moment of fruition for our training earlier in the day. My Ninetales roared a massive fire blast down at Absol. In her rage and pain our previous six inch record of blue flame was shattered as she extended it to nearly two feet! The searing hot X flew from Lady’s mouth and slammed to the arena floor where the Absol stood leaving a scorched X in the dirt with Absol’s silhouette in the center.

Unbelievably, the Absol was still standing when the inferno extinguished! Its own groomed coat was ruined now with scorch marks scattered over the white fur, something that made Lady grin as she landed with a pained wince and panted heavily. I couldn't fathom how the pokemon had endured the hit, and even my trained eye failed to give me a hint. Maybe it was just that strong... I gritted my teeth, wondering how I would win this when a buzzer sounded loudly over the stage.

“No way it’s been five minutes already!” I thought to myself and looked up toward the score board. Lady looked around as the buzzer sounded, unsure of what the unfamiliar sound meant. Sure enough, the clock still read 3:00, but the point gauges told a different story. We had managed to steal all of Absol’s points in just 2 minutes!

We were declared the winners and the crowd roared its approval. Somewhere out of the corner of my eye I saw my sister quickly leaving her seat, not even bothering to applaud. With the battle over Lady relaxed and started to walk towards Luca and I. She didn't get far though before the adrenaline wore off and she yelped, collapsing to the ground in pain. Luca and I were at her side the moment she collapsed. I could see she was in quite a bit of pain as she raised her head to yip happily, trying to pass her injury off as nothing and make me happy that we'd won.

"Shhh. I know. You were beautiful." I said soothingly and idly stroked her side, inadvertently finding the source of her pain... In reflex she snarled and mouthed at my arm. Her teeth grazed my skin as I flinched and looked at her, hurt she would do such a thing. The feeling didn't last though as I saw the look she wore when our eyes met. "It's ok. I'm sorry." I said gently and pet between her ears softly. Her eyes had said it all. She'd scared even herself with her accidental reaction. Sadly, she was too big for me to carry to the center, and I didn't want to cause her more pain. I quickly pulled her custom ball out and withdrew her as she gave me a sad but understanding look.

The Absol had made its way back to its trainer’s side while we tended to Lady. The crowd had gone silent seeing the Ninetales was hurt and the announcer patiently waited for me to leave. As I looked up from Lady's ball though I saw my opponent give a nod to me. It looked like the acknowledgement of a good battle but I wasn’t sure whether to take his gesture as one of insult or respect. After all... How do you injure someone and just walk away? A hate flashed in my heart and I hoped for his sake we never crossed paths again...

As I rose to my feet, a round of applause sounded from the crowd. There were even a few more cheers for the beautiful show Lady had given. It made me smile as I looked around and waved a thank you to them all. At least there were still some decent people in the world. Still, Luca and I walked quickly from the stage, clearing the way for the rest of the matches. Luca was just as worried as she stayed close beside me. Hoping to ease her own nerves I offered to let her carry Lady's ball. With a soft smile I put the ball in her paws as we reached the door out of the back stage area.

"Is she ok?" My sister asked quickly as the door opened to reveal Luca and I. She'd been waiting since she'd left, expecting us to have appeared quicker.

"I don't know. It must hurt pretty badly for her to snap at me." I answered as I looked at her with a little despair in my expression. She didn't say anything else as we started walking to the center.

The four of us had barely gotten through the doors to the center before Luca was at the counter presenting Lady's ball to Joy and begging her to make sure she was ok. A bit surprised she took the ball but wasn't sure what to do until she looked at me. "She's hurt, it's her left side." I said as I came closer and put an arm about Luca's shoulders to calm her down. Joy gave a nod and a kind smile before she went to the back room for whatever equipment they had back there. She didn't come back immediately so we took a seat on the couches surrounding a TV. The channel was tuned to the contest still going on up the street. My sister wasn't impressed by the battling, saying they had obviously never done this before. Their attacks were the style of gym battlers, not coordinators.

It wasn't too long before Joy came out to find us. Luca's ears perked as she heard the doors shut and she quickly turned around in her seat. Joy was only a few feet away and gave my eager Lucario a sweet smile as I turned too. "She's resting right now but she'll be ok. You were in the contest right? I didn't think those battles got so serious." She said as she held out Lady's empty pokeball to return to me.

"Thank you." I said first as I graciously took the ball, a weight lifted from my shoulders.

"They're usually not. This is an open one so some gym battler's entered." My sister said with a bit of distaste in her voice. She too seemed upset that Lady had gotten hurt.

"I see. I'm sorry this happened to you then. You put on a wonderful show." Joy complimented to me, but she reached out to pet Luca as she finished, clearly approving of the routine that got us to the second round. "You can come see her if you wish. She bruised two ribs and cracked three more, but with some rest she’ll heal in no time.” She continued as she waited for us to get up, knowing we wouldn't turn down her offer. It was good to know she'd be alright but three cracked ribs...? I wondered just how strong that Absol was and why in the world it had been so vindictive. I had a choice to make now though... Did we forfeit or keep going? Reluctantly I felt I had to ask.

"Joy...? Can she still compete in the contest finals?" I asked as we walked back with her. Luca seemed saddened when I asked, though I didn’t know if it was because she didn't want Lady to battle or because all our effort would be for naught.

Joy's expression turned to a pondering concern but she gave a cautious smile and nodded. “I think so, as long as you have a full restore to boost her healing before and after the match.” She said as she opened the door for us. Luckily I always carried more than enough in the way of potions and had four full restores on me. "You should still try to protect her side though but a contest match shouldn't be out of the question, even one like this so long as you're not facing that brutish Absol again." Luca seemed encouraged by Joy's words and I gave her a soft smile. Still, I couldn't help worrying. If Lady got hurt again... I don't think I'd ever be able to forgive myself.

Lady was sleeping peacefully as we came up to her bed. She didn't look hurt in the least, and Joy had even seemed to lessen the little bit of swelling I'd felt when I touched her side. I knew though there was very little the center's quick treatments could do for cracked or broken bones though. Not wanting to wake her I settled for petting her fluffy tails, the one spot I knew she wouldn't feel enough to rouse her. She was as soft as ever and Joy's treatments had even brought back a little of the sheen to her coat. Luca didn't want to disturb her and neither did Ashley, so we left her to rest and regroup a little before the match later in the afternoon.

We went out for a quick shopping trip where Ashley let me in on the secret to getting the girl's coats so silken. A little known brand of pokemon shampoo that was advertised more for bird pokemon. The oils they used worked on feathers but did an even better job of cleaning and conditioning fur. I was skeptical at first but Whiskers had been using it for years and her fur hadn't fallen out or mutated to feathers yet so... I decided to trust my sister. Plus, she liked Luca and Lady, so she wouldn't do anything to hurt them. After that we went out to get something to eat. Luca helped me get something for Lady as well, since we figured she'd be near ravenous when she woke.

By the time we got back to the center Lady was awake. Joy was keeping her company and brushing her tails. Which I'll admit surprised me. Usually Lady didn't like anyone touching her tails but me. Ever since my sister tried to trim them once and made more than half of them into "clubs." She was still a bit dazed though from whatever medicine the nurse had used, so perhaps that explained why she was a little more lucid. She raised her head and smiled though when we entered, her tails wagging softly and coming free from Joy's hands. Luca ran to our Ninetales and quickly hugged her around the neck, whining and telling her how glad she was that she was ok. My sister would have chided me for looking but I couldn't help noticing Luca's tail wagging happily. I love how cute she was without trying...

With a chuckle I held up a bag as we came to Lady's bed side. "Hungry?" I said cheerfully as I pet my oldest friend between her ears. With a growl of hunger Lady barely offered me a response before she plunged her head into the bag, sniffing at the box within. "Jese, glad you're feeling better." I chuckled with a hint of fake sorrow as I pulled out her dinner and opened it to set it on the bed. As Lady licked my hand in a thank you /joy smiled and got up to leave us alone. "Thank you." I said with a grateful smile. I really appreciated her keeping Lady company.

"You're welcome." She answered with a smile, and left us to return to the counter. We spent another half hour just relaxing before we had to get ready. I asked Lady if she felt like she could battle again and was pleasantly surprised when she lifted her head from licking her box clean and yipped eagerly. I chuckled and pet her, silently thanking her for her jolt of confidence.

"Then let’s go win this!" I replied with a laugh, getting a clap from Luca and an exasperated shake of the head from my sister. With that we headed out back for a little warm up. Lady seemed like her old self once more. I'd never have been able to tell she'd been hurt if I didn't already know. My sister was in better spirits too as she left us at the back stage door with one more good luck. As our last precaution though I pulled a full restore out of my pack before we were introduced. Just as the judge was starting his introduction for our opponent I sprayed the whole thing on Lady's side and gingerly stroked the medicine into her fur. She didn't even wince as I touched her though I couldn't tell if she was resisting the urge. My nerves were still a bit tense as we took the stage. In my worry I'd forgotten to check who our opponent was and what his match had been like. I was pleasantly surprised though when we walked out to find a Scizor opposite us on the field.

After introducing us while Lady gave a beautiful wave of her tails, shaking off a few small glowing embers for effect the judge started the match. Right off the bat the Scizor started beating its wings, giving off a pleasant buzz as well as a shimmering silver glimmer. It hovered just few inches above the ground as Lady watched it intently. Just then, it started moving in earnest. The bug darted back and forth on the field in a seemingly random pattern around Lady. All of the sudden my worry returned. This wouldn't be as easy as I hoped...

It moved with such incredible speed, especially for how much it weighed as a steel type. Lady's head swiveled as she struggled a little to keep track of her opponent. Luca was the one with the sped now to keep up with such an opponent, but I could be disqualified even if I only asked her for help watching the Scizor. None the less her eyes and ears twitched back and forth, watching the creature intently, just like Lady.

I tried to think of a plan as we let the bug continue. Lady was starting to get a feel for its movements and seemed less on edge, but she was still having difficulties, though less than I was... We had to slow it down somehow... If we could do that we had this in the bag.

After a few rounds of its pattern the Scizor made its move. Lady lowered her stance and growled, letting smoke trail from her muzzle. She had figured out enough of Scizor’s pattern to know that he had now broken it. “Lady, use fire spin around yourself!” I yelled quickly, getting an idea as I saw the bug darting in for an attack. My fox understood perfectly and with an elegance that brought me back to the contest she threw up a gigantic vortex of flames around her position. Flames that looked like they would be as soft as a pillow poured from her maw as she circled on all fours. They soon became a fierce inferno though as she spun faster ad stood on her hind legs and danced like a human using her tails for balance!

Caught off guard the Scizor immediately tried to reverse its momentum before it hit Lady’s pillar. It flinched and shielded its face with a claw as it managed to stop mere inches before the vortex. "Lady! Flamethrower nova!" I yelled over the roar of the flames, hoping she knew what I meant.

In another stunning display my Ninetales once more read my mind. The base of the fire spin quite suddenly swelled and burst outwards in all directions! Inside the spin you could see the Ninetales slowly coming to a stop as the previous tornado of flames spiraled upwards, dissipating from the bottom up with the explosion at the base. I had to hand it to my Lady; she really had a talent for these contests.

The Scizor had no time to react as it stumbled back from the swelling flames. As they burst out in a ring it shrieked, crossing its claws in front of it and falling to the dirt with the full force of Lady’s attack. "Dig!" I barked quickly, taking the opportunity before the Scizor started flying again. Lady leapt and spun with the command, her paws forming a point as she came to the ground. With impressive speed the ground yielded, letting the fox disappear just as her vortex finished its burn.

Unfortunately, the Scizor regained its composure quickly. Its wings beat franticly at its trainer's shouts to get up, making dust flare behind it. Once more it hovered and quickly fell back into its flight pattern, but this time... I could easily keep track of it. We had succeeded in dealing some damage and slowing it down, but that did little to help Lady, who was now stuck underground with a moving target...

The Scizor looked around the field worriedly, wondering where Lady would come up but it still seemed rather confident she wouldn't be able to lock on from underground. Even I was worried as to where she'd come up. If it were the obvious spot she would have surfaced already. She knew the Scizor was flying, and she was trying to help me. I had to think of what we could do next...

I didn't have long to think before Lady popped up almost right in front of our opposing trainer. That deep into enemy territory she was actually behind the Scizor, who whirled in shock as it heard the rumble of ground being torn apart. I don't know what shocked it more though, the fact that she hadn't attacked, or that she was behind it.

"Quick attack!" I yelled as she emerged. It was a knee jerk reaction and thankfully Lady once more added a contest flare. Darting back and forth like the last match she rocketed straight towards her opponent. Unfazed, the bug followed suit. Apparently our opponents meant to make this a grand light show because Scizor's claw started to glow. I saw Scizor’s claw begin to glow and knew what was coming. Remembering an idea I'd had last week I smiled and dramatically yelled our next attack with a broad point of my finger.

"Iron tailS!" I ordered, and saw the smirk on Lady's muzzle as she heard. As she ran at the Scizor she gave a long growl, alighting her tails one by one and keeping them flared just slightly. The crowed ooed and awed at the sight.

The two pokemon met at halfway to center field on our opponent’s side. Scizor thrust its shining claw at Lady, but Lady deftly knocked it aside with a single tail and a loud metallic clang. A split second later Lady brought her second tail around. Scizor blocked that successfully with its other claw, but he was now out of limbs… Lady brought the remaining seven tails around to continue the onslaught, absolutely battering the bug in a dazzling flurry of sparks and flashes! Scizor managed to dodge one or two of the attacks by squirming in the close quarters, but took the rest full force, breaking its concentration for flying and sending it skidding back a few feet in the dust.

The attacks didn’t do much damage to Scizor, but his contest points took a massive hit, a quick glance gave me a jolt of confidence. We were just about one attack away from winning this thing! Unfortunately, the flurry took a big toll on Lady as well. Charging that many attacks at once and keeping the mental focus to use them all was a tough job, and put an enormous strain on her both mentally and physically. She stood there panting and barely able to move for a moment as she stared down the recovering bug.

The Scizor stared defiantly back, forcing its breaths back to normal with just two gasps. Its wings flickered as it seemed to be getting a little frustrated. Not wanting to give the Scizor too much time to form a plan I caught Lady's attention and let out a long breath like I was blowing on a hot bite of food. Lady's ears flicked, telling me she got the hint.

"Quick attack again!" I yelled and once more she darted off. This time though, she changed her path. Instead of zigzags she arched gracefully, swerving this way and that as the Scizor hurried to dodge, once more falling into its now predictable flight pattern. Lady chased it through several of its stops but headed it off at its next! Shocked the Scizor froze as Lady stepped into its spot first! The fox spun neatly in place and released a searing flamethrower from her maw, straight at the Scizor's chest. Blue flame once more shot from her muzzle, but more to the tune of the six inches we practiced. The bug only had a fraction of a second to react but it succeeded...

With its wings still fluttering the Scizor bent backwards. I was sure the thing would fall to its back but in a fantastic display it floated on a cushion of air created by those still beating wings! It seemed to have surprised itself as the torrent of flame blasted over it, but a command from its trainer brought it back to the moment.

With little room to maneuver the bug didn't have many options and its trainer knew that. Still in shock myself at the dodge, a flash from the field caught my attention. "PROTECT!!!" I screamed at the top of my lungs, but it was too late... As Lady's attack halted she was left staring blankly as the Scizor's Metal Claw attack reached within her guard.

The next thing I heard was the sickening cracks as the attack connected... Lady gave a tortured shriek that mixed with a nauseatingly phlemed gurgle. The match was completely wiped from my mind as I started to run. Luca was frozen at the sideline, her paws clasped to her muzzle and her eyes wide with horror.

Confused as a different buzzer sounded the Scizor blinked as it watched its tailed opponent hit the ground, limp on her side. Its wings twitched anxiously, wondering what it had done and if it had been disqualified. I didn't care... The bug could have melted away and I wouldn't have noticed.

I slid to Lady's side on my knees, finding her still breathing... at least... for now. Blood leaked from the side of her muzzle and she gave shrill wheezing whines each time her chest even moved to attempt a breath. Her side was caved slightly and I felt like I couldn't breathe either. Tears welled in my eyes. I wanted to hold her but was afraid to touch her at all. Somewhere amongst the thoughts of losing her I remembered her pokeball... As if using a quick attack of my own my hands flung to my belt. I fumbled for her ball and somehow managed to enlarge it and point it at Lady. She disappeared in a flash of red, but left a red stain in the dirt... a painful reminder that the pokeball wouldn't heal her.

My heart felt like it had been crushed in that bug's claws. I stared at Lady's ball as twin tears hit and slid across the enameled surface. Just then I felt a touch on my shoulder. I must have been staring at the tailed pokeball for longer than I thought because I turned to find Luca's paw on my shoulder and Ashley behind her. A flash of hope hit me and in a flurry I stood and shoved Lady's ball into Luca's paws and chest.

"Take it! Get her to the center!" I yelled, obviously distressed more than Luca had ever seen before. She froze again, staring at me in terror as she squeezed Lady's ball, but unconsciously was careful not to hit the button... "GO!" I begged, unintentionally scaring her again and missing the tears in her eyes. My dear Lucario's ears flattened as she sniffled and turned, disappearing in a puff of dust as she used extreme speed. My sister was nearly spun completely around as the invisible canine knocked her shoulder. With a wince she turned back to find the judge tapping me on the shoulder next.

"I'm sorry but we have to ask you to leave the field. Please know you have our best wishes." He said, trying to be polite, but there really was no way to avoid the awkwardness.

"Thanks..." I sniffled softly and turned to hurry off. My sister wanted to give me a hug but I caught her hand gently and directed her to follow. Understanding entirely, she started to jog to keep up, with the two of us and Whiskers breaking into a full run as we exited out the main tunnel.

I didn't even see what happened to our opponent and the Scizor. In the beginning I hated that bug for what it had done. If I wasn't so worried about Lady I would have had Luca continue the fight until its shell cracked... but... the more I thought about it, the more my hate faded. Despair once more gripped my heart and I realized I would hate to win a competition with such an accident... I remembered the way the Scizor seemed confused. I had to wonder if it really had intentionally aimed for that spot.

My lungs were on fire as we burst through the pokecenter doors, and yet I felt like I could still run a marathon. Immediately I saw blue near the opposite set of doors. It was Luca. She sat next to the ER doors holding Lady's ball, staring blankly at it as she sniffled and cried, her tears dripping from the end of her nose. I hurried over but as her wavering eyes met mine I forgot some of my own need.

"How is she?" I asked softly, but she could hardly speak.

“Joy just said it looked bad...” She whined with another sniffle. I knew it was bad from watching the hit but somehow this feeling was infinitely worse. My heart went cold, I couldn’t get mad, couldn’t cry, nothing… I just stood there as my mind went completely blank.

Thankfully... my sister could still function. With gentle encouragement she helped me to sit next to Luca. At first I stared at the ceiling, but as my thoughts started to return I cradled my face in my hands. Ashley knew she couldn't do anything for me. Any words of encouragement would be entirely hollow to my ears so she sat on the other side of Luca and consoled the weeping Lucario. My heart ached more as I heard Luca finally break down. She was my friend, my sweet little girl, and I couldn't even be strong for her...

Finally my eyes cooperated. My tears fell to the floor as I huffed and wept softly... All I could think was what if she died because of me...? What if I never saw her again? If she didn't come out of that room... I would never forgive myself...

It was an agonizing two hours before the ER light flicked off. Another tortuous moment later Joy emerged from the doors with a surgeon's mask around her neck. The sound of footsteps caught my attention and I looked up hopefully, but was afraid to ask or even move. Luca, having cried her sorrows back to a manageable level on my sister's shoulder, still clutched Lady's ball tightly, as fearful as I was when Joy started to explain.

“The hit broke her three cracked ribs plus one more. Two of the ribs punctured her lung causing some significant internal bleeding. To top it all off she had a dislocated left front shoulder.” She said calmly and... perhaps a little too bluntly. I felt like I was going to pass out as I felt Lady slipping away with every word. “However, her vitals are stable right now. I was able to safely reposition her ribs and speed the healing of her lung. It should heal in a few days if she stays relatively still. Her ribs though, have to mend themselves. I've braced them as best I can but she will be very sore for three to four weeks and I'm afraid she can't be in a battle for at least three months." She continued, and all of the sudden my own lungs seemed to heal as well. I gulped fresh air to replace the breath I'd unwittingly been holding. Luca's ears perked quickly, her eyes wavering happily at the news.

I quickly rose to my feet but Joy put a hand on my shoulder to stop me. “She's still sleeping from the anesthesia... I'm sorry but she shouldn't be disturbed. This is going to be tough for her too. I'm sorry, I hope you understand.” She said sadly with a sympathetic look. It hurt... but I did understand.

"Alright... Can you please call us when she wakes?" I finally managed to speak again, finding my voice still choked up at first. Joy gave a gentle smile and nodded.

"Of course. And for what it's worth, I thought she gave a beautiful show." She added with a hint of cheer. I couldn't help letting a soft smile out at the compliment but thanked her and turned back to Luca and my sister.

"Are you ok?" I asked Luca, my worries eased significantly. I even felt more like myself as I helped Luca up. She quickly threw herself at me though, hugging me tightly and almost crying again as she told me how worried she was. I pet her sweetly and hugged her tightly. "I know hun..." I answered softly, rubbing between her ears.

"Hey... You left your pack in the locker room." A male voice suddenly said from behind me. A little startled and embarrassed to be hugging my Lucario in public I loosened my grip on Luca and turned to see the guy Lady and I had just battled. My arm quickly retightened around Luca's shoulders as I kept her close. It wasn't that I thought he'd hurt her, it was the jolt of fury that suddenly hit my heart seeing him again. After that initial realization though, I saw he was holding my backpack out for me, and the look in his eyes wasn't what I'd expected.

"Thanks." I said simply, but relaxed a little as I let Luca go to take my pack from him.

"You're welcome... Is she ok?" He asked with genuine concern as he awkwardly put his hands in his pockets.

"She'll be ok. Thanks for checking." I answered, feeling just as awkward.

"Look... I'm sorry for what happened. Neither of us meant for... that... to happen." He said with regret, easing my nerves further.

"I know. She had an injury front the match before, but it was the finals and a contest... so we thought she'd be ok." I answered, admitting to myself at the same time that this was entirely my fault. He seemed to agree but thankfully didn't comment.

"I forfeited the match after that. Thought you'd like to know they're holding another contest in two days. The judges really didn't know what else to do after our match anyway." He explained, hoping to maybe give me another chance, but I didn't care anymore.

"For what it's worth I'm sorry it happened like that." I offered to him and was surprised to get a soft chuckle in response.

"I’m glad you understand. Something tells me you'd have done the same. Anyway... Just wanted to return your pack and make sure your Ninetales was alright. Cya." He replied and turned to walk away.

"Thanks again. I appreciate the concern." I said as he left, getting a wave of the hand like it was nothing.

After that the four of us went back to our rooms. My sister gave me some supportive words with a tight hug before she went to her own room with Whiskers. I thanked her for being the stronger person through the ordeal but she just chuckled and reminded me Lady would be fine. When I was finally alone with Luca I couldn't help feeling terrible for what I'd done to her the past couple hours. However, I at least had the chance to talk to her, and thankfully, she didn't want to leave my side.

"I'm so sorry for yelling at you..." I began, putting an arm about her and hoping she'd let me give her another hug. She gave me a sad whine and once again embraced me tightly, burying her face in my chest. Her tears came back a little but she was far from crying like she had for Ashley.

"I-I thought you were mad at me for not protecting her..." She admitted as we sat together on the bed. Again my heart nearly broke.

"Sweetie I'd never blame you. There was nothing you could do; please don't think like that ok? I should never have continued the contest after she got hurt." I answered quickly, pulling her to me in an effort to banish her guilt. I'd forgotten she was carrying Lady's ball until she put it in my hand and held both tightly in her paws. I squeezed the smooth surface gently and put my other hand on the mound, ensuring Luca didn't release me.

"L-lady's really going to be ok. Right?" She asked sadly and quietly after a long pause. I could tell this was just the last of her worries coming out and to be honest I needed to hear it again too.

"She'll be ok. Joy is taking care of her for now but we won't let anything else happen to her. Ok?" I said with a caring smile as I tried to be the brave one for her now. She held my gaze as she smiled back, her eyes tearing up again. Gently I encouraged her to lay back on the bed with me. I held her tight as she cuddled close. I never wanted anything to happen to my girls ever again... Not Lady and certainly not Luca. I couldn't help myself as we lay there; I craned my neck and gave my dear Lucario a soft kiss on the forehead. She raised her face from my chest and stared at me for a moment before she giggled ever so gently and kissed my chin in return. As the two of us closed our eyes with the fatigue of drama overtaking us I felt a hard bump between us. It was Lady's ball once more but despite the slight discomfort, neither of us wanted to move it. We fell asleep in each other's arms waiting for Joy's call.

It wasn't until early the next morning that our call came. Luca's ear twitched as the phone just started to make noise. The stiff triangle whapped me in the nose, waking me and earning a complaining groan. Having answered the phone before Luca reflexively picked it up, answering with a "Riioo...?"

"This is Joy. Lady will be waking up in a few minutes if you'd like to be here." She said kindly and hung up. Luca dropped the phone and scrambled to wake me, shaking me a bit more than gently.

"Feli, wake up! Lady's awake." She said quickly, continuing until I squirmed and started to arise. Franticly she leapt from the bed and impatiently waited for me to join her. I wasn't far behind. Having slept in my clothes again I shook my head to clear the last of the grogginess and followed as Luca went to the door. Not even bothering to find my shoes we ran as fast as we dared to the ER. A Chansey met us at the door and blew a long breath over us, startling both Luca and I quite effectively. I quickly figured out though it must have been a safeguard attack. Probably a quick and simple way to disinfect us so we could visit our patient still recovering from a serious surgery.

Some of the early to rise trainers in the lobby watched with confusion as the Chansey acted like nothing happened and opened the door for a trainer and his Lucario. As a trainer myself I knew they'd seen stranger. Luca and I hurried in to find Lady on a stretcher. She gave a long groaning whine as her leg moved, then another as she took a deep breath. It hurt to see her in pain still but I could never express the joy seeing her alive after such an injury.

Luca beat me to her, though she quickly got scolded from Joy for using quick attack in the ER... I don't think she even heard the reprimand though as she gingerly pet Lady's head and neck, whimpering how relieved we were that she was ok. I wasn't far behind, and made my first touch a gentle stroke of Lady's cheek.

Our reward for our affection was a soft murr as she relaxed on her bed. My guess was it hurt to move but she was probably confused, having passed out with the pain at the arena. "It's ok. You're at the center. Joy's been taking care of you; you're gonna be ok..." I said quickly, and just as quickly lost my composure. I was crying as I stroked her again and leaned over to burry my face in her neck fur. Thankfully it didn't seem to cause her pain, even as Luca did the same with a whine and tears leaking wetting her fur as well.

The Chansey from before hurried over to help Joy finish with the tubes and equipment she was cleaning up. The pink haired nurse kept an eye on us but left us to our reunion. Lady was a bit surprised to see both of us so broken up, though perhaps the pain killers she would certainly still be on kept her lucid enough not to worry about us. After a few good sobs Luca and I were left with only a happy relief as we pulled up some chairs to be with Lady as long as we could. I left my girls once to fetch Lady's brush so I could groom her tails as we explained and encouraged her through her injuries. I spared a glance back through the ER doors as I left and saw Luca had begun crying again. I smiled sadly seeing she was once more trying to be strong for me and took my time in getting back.

When I came back, Luca had stopped crying and actually wore a smile as she and Lady looked to me. The Chansey had once again stopped me at the door, messing my hair with her safe guard breath. Teasingly I shook Lady's brush and used it to smooth my hair, earning a giggle from both the girls as I rejoined them. An hour later Lady's tails were smoothed and cleaned thoroughly. Luca had managed to do much the same with Lady's mane just by petting her gently. Our fox was able to raise her head by then too and happily gave us both affectionate licks of thanks and encouragement.

Luca and I could tell Lady was getting tired again, so we thought it best if we let her get some more rest. Luca said her goodbyes and gave the fox a gentle hug around the neck. Lady gave her another lick on the ear, earning a giggle from the blue canine. She stepped back and waited while I did the same, though I nuzzled my dear friend sweetly as I whispered to her. “I’m glad you’re alright.” I said into her neck, but a twitch of her ear and a loving lick to the face as I pulled away told me she heard. “I don’t know what I’d do without you...” I said softly with a smile, fighting the urge to cry as I pet her once more and let her lay down. She yipped softly at me, making Luca giggle, so it must have been witty. As we left the room she had drifted off already...

Luca and I went back to our room after thanking Joy and feeling much better now that we had gotten to see Lady. We fell back to sleep for another few hours, our thoughts and dreams much more pleasant. When we next woke it was nearly noon. The two of us went down to check the ER, but found Lady still resting peacefully, though Joy was changing an IV and checking the bandages around her midsection. We went out to get something to eat with my sister and brought something back for Lady too. Unfortunately the Chansey insisted on sterilizing it... but it was for the best I suppose. She didn't eat much but she enjoyed the company none the less since she still couldn't get out of bed yet.

Since it was the first time my sister got to see Lady she gave her a hug too and a sweet kiss, getting a face lick in return as well. I was glad to see Lady was more herself. She was more aware than this morning too, so maybe she would be well enough to walk sooner than Joy had predicted.

After our visit, Luca, Ashley, Whiskers and I decided to go see who won the contest. Once again the guy with the Scizor was one of the second round combatants, but another competitor with an Espeon, Umbreon and Eevee were the victors in the match and eventually the whole thing. It was clear the boy had never won a contest before, and it made even my sister smile at how cute the four of them were at the presentation. Luca on the other hand... couldn't keep her eyes off the little Eevee. Her tail wagged energetically as she watched the little one run in its excitement.

"No. You can't have one..." I teased, making her whine pathetically as we left and start begging to find Lady a mate so we could have kits. I blushed at the suggestion, which of course meant Luca thought she'd won. We went back and shared a laugh with Lady over it, though I think she was of my opinion more than Luca's from the embarrassed look she got when our little Luca first suggested it to her...

Lady could move a bit more that day. She was able to raise her whole front, resting on her belly was the furthest Joy would let her get though. She seemed antsy and bored as we sat there with her. I could tell she didn't like being cooped up and forced to stay still. I just hoped she wouldn't have to stay much longer. Never the less the rest of the day passed like the one before. Our pup still couldn't leave the care room, though Joy assured us she was out of any danger to her health.

When it was time to let Lady get some rest, Luca and I decided to pay my sister another visit. Since we were basically waiting on Lady before we went on our cruise we were enjoying having the additional conversation partner. My Lucario and I opened the door without knocking like we had several times before. This time though... we were met with a viciously hissing Whiskers and my sister yelling, “SHUT THE DOOR!!”

Luca was last in the room and yelped as she reflexively slammed the door and threw her weight against it, as if someone had been chasing us. I had made it far enough into the room though to see my sister quickly stash away something red... I knew what it looked like, but... where had it come from?

“What was that!?” I asked quickly, ignoring the still growling cat as I hurried to sit on the bed opposite Ashley. Luca's curiosity had peaked enough for her to hurry by Whiskers as well. She leapt on the bed and stood behind me, resting most of her weight on my shoulders. I could feel the breeze from her tail as she wagged it wildly, and asked what it was I'd seen. Annoyed by the whole thing Whiskers curled back up at the foot of Ashley's bed, leaving my sister with the decision of whether to share her secret with us.

“You can’t tell anyone!” She said sharply. Still protectively hiding whatever it was.

"Alright! Just show us!" I agreed eagerly and slowly she brought the egg back around for us to see. Luca sighed in awe as she stared and leaned more of her weight on me. It was a bright red egg with a single blue triangle on the upper half. I was a big fan of legendary pokemon and since Luca traveled with me, we both knew there was only one pokemon with that color pattern.

"How'd you get that!?" I asked in amazement, struggling to stay upright.

"Well... we were walking around the Pokekey island city where I won my fourth ribbon when I felt a tug at my pack. I spun and Whiskers slashed at something like it grabbed her tail but there was nothing there. I checked my pack and found it in there. I don't know who or what would have put it there." She explained as she stared at the egg.

"Do you know what kind of egg that is?" I asked curiously. She shook her head but seemed to catch that Luca and I were hiding something.

"You do though don't you...?” She asked us, eyeing us suspiciously. Luca giggled, her tail still wagging quickly.

"Yeah, but I’m not going to tell you!” I said with a grin, earning an annoyed groan from my sister. She didn't push the subject though, and I suspected she didn’t really want to know, it would ruin the surprise. Everything about Ashley's story seemed to fit what I'd heard about the legendary I thought this egg was from. But then again several legends could be playful and sneaky to the point of not being seen.

“How long have you had it?” I asked next.

"Two weeks and nothing has changed. I’m starting to wonder if it’s ever going to hatch or if this was just a prank.” She said with a little disappointment. It was then that Luca finally stopped leaning on me, taking the chance to sit next to me on the bed. She tugged at my shirt and whimpered at me a little, asking if she could hold it.

"Can Luca hold it?" I asked for her. My sister looked up, a little hesitant, unsure whether she wanted to trust anyone else with her egg. A pleading look from Luca melted any reservations though and she gingerly held it out to pass it into Luca's paws. Almost giddy once again Luca cradled the egg in her arms. Her tail started wagging behind her again as she ran a paw over the shell gently. All of the sudden though... Luca yelped and her eyes got wide. She still held the egg carefully but she seemed to have been quite surprised by something. The moment had passed too fast but her teardrops had moved when she yelped. It must have been from her tensing up though.

"What's wrong?" My sister said quickly. Not wanting to worry Ashley Luca quickly handed the egg back, but my Lucario still seemed a little spooked over something.

"Luca?" I asked softly, but she smiled and said it was nothing. The strange part came next though... Luca said she thought the egg would hatch within a week.

Ashley quickly asked what Luca had said, cradling her egg protectively, wondering what was wrong. "Well, let's just say you're not getting rid of us for a while." I chuckled, but my jest backfired... Ashley looked to Whiskers and gave a slight gesture. All of the sudden I found the large cat flying at me...

"Tell me... Or she gets a new scratching post." My sister said as she put the egg away. Luca had yelped and stood, covering her mouth with her paws as she watched Whiskers pin me to the bed. Seeing me laugh though Luca wondered if she should help or not.

“You might as well give up. You’re not getting it out of me! I’ve withstood more torture from Lady and Luca than Whiskers can give.” I laughed, but quickly rethought that one as Ashley grinned rather evilly.

"Really...? I doubt that..." She said as she came over and Whiskers gave a long low growl with her ears back.

"U-uhh... o-ok LUCA! HELP?" I begged, but Luca was standing there with her ears back and tail down, looking quite unsure.

"Tell me?" Ashley asked again, poking my side, making me chuckle and squirm.

"Nope... Luca will save me!" I said with an unsure smile. Ashley groaned and finally relented, nudging Whiskers to give her an unspoken cue to let me go. I watched the Persian carefully... not wanting a slash mark on my back but she was back to her apathetic self.

"I'll get it out of you sooner or later..." Ashley teased threateningly as I stood and quickly got hugged protectively by Luca. I just laughed and pet her, making sure she knew it was all in good fun before we left my sister to get some supplies for our trip. She had agreed to go on the cruise with us, which I was unbelievably eager for now. We'd get to see that egg hatch and take a relaxing vacation! That's when an idea hit me...

"Luca? Want to get Ashley a pokeball for the pokemon in her egg?" I asked my girl.

"Yes!" She yipped and smiled, agreeing happily. We checked in on Lady once more before heading out to see if we could find a pokeball artist, as well as pick up a few potions and food for our eventual trip to the next city over and our cruise.

As we explored Luca stuck close to me. It wasn't that she was scared; more that she just seemed to enjoy the moment. She was so happy when we really weren't doing anything that I wondered if she was alright or if Lady getting hurt had traumatized her in some way... I'd have to ask Lady if she seemed different somehow, but to be perfectly honest... I really didn't mind her being a little more clingy, and seeing her smile so much was a great comfort to my still guilty heart.

Finally, after wandering the city till near dusk, we found what we were really looking for. Custom ball shops were fairly rare and always privately owned. Every artist had his own style too, but Luca and I agreed the young man would do excellent for what we had in mind. So after a half hour of discussing with him, we had our design finalized. It was actually a fairly simple paint job with only three colors. Red was dominant, with white being the second, and just a little bit of blue to match the triangle on my sister's egg. Of course when we were asked who the ball was for we played it off as just another custom idea we'd had. We didn't really want anyone to know we thought my sister had a baby legendary pokemon... The man shrugged at our fanaticism and left it at that, telling us the ball would be finished tomorrow around noon.

With our final errand taken care of the two of us made our way back to the center for the night. We got a pleasant surprise though when we went to visit Lady. Joy had her off the bed and walking around the ER! She was still limping a little on her left front leg but she was getting around just fine. Luca ran to her and knelt, hugging her gingerly around the neck, overjoyed to see her moving again. I did the same when the Lucario finally let her go and she once more gave us both sweet licks in return, obviously happy to be able to move.

"She can sleep with you tonight if you wish but she should have her own area or be in her ball." Joy advised, seeing we'd found our fox.

"Thank you so much. I'm so sorry to have troubled you so much." I said gratefully.

"It's my job." She said with a caring smile, like it was nothing at all. I knew I could never thank her enough but I couldn't help giving her a quick hug of thanks. Her cheeks tinted the color of her hair as she smiled and waved goodbye for the night to the three of us. Luca though... seemed a little jealous of that hug for some reason. I caught her ears flipping forward from having lain back, and a slight glare she gave Joy through the smile as we left. I couldn't help being a bit confused after how she'd been so happy all day today...

The three of us went to visit Ashley, showing her how Lady was doing before we went back to our room to settle in for the night. Inside, a Chansey had been nice enough to bring a large pokebed in for Lady. It was soft, padded and large enough for her to stretch out a little in. She didn't particularly want to but I insisted despite the disappointed look on her face breaking my heart... Luca gave her surrogate mother a soft lick kiss good night before she came to get in bed with me. As Luca snuggled up, murred, and hugged my arm like a teddy bear I looked to Lady with a smile and wished her good night. She was watching us and didn't put her head down as I spoke. I thought she was still upset though it didn't explain her nose twitching softly... I apologized to her again with a heavy heart and shut out the light, only then did I hear her lie down and curl her tails around her face.

The next day Ashley and I picked the cruise we wanted to go on. The only bad part was that we had to leave today if we were to make it without running miles to the next city. We still had to pick up our gift but I was busy getting a lesson from Joy in how to care for Lady. When she gave me a little break to absorb the information I quickly went to Luca with a whisper.

"Would you go pick up Ashley's ball?" I asked softly, despite my sister being nowhere around.

“Really? You want me to pick it up alone?” Luca asked, a little confused but seeming rather excited.

“Of course. I trust you.” I replied, with a smile but held up a finger. “You just can’t give it to Ashley yet, ok?” I teased, knowing she wouldn't do such a thing. My Lucario giggled excitedly and snagged the money I held for the ball. Before I knew it she was off using extreme speed. I just shook my head, hoping she didn't get in trouble for knocking someone over.

I went back to Joy so she could show me how to clean and rewrap Lady's wounds. I hadn't seen Lady without her bandages before now, and I got a harsh growl when I couldn't hold back a snicker at the large bald spot on her side... Her fur was one of her proudest possessions and she might never forgive Joy for doing this to her... Still, the wounds were almost entirely healed. Joy gave me some special medicine and told me for the next week I should apply it once a day.

After our session with Joy she wished us luck and I went to pack our things with Lady walking slowly beside me. Her limp had lessened but I still didn't want to strain her too much because it was clear her ribs still hurt her. It wasn't long before Luca reappeared in the room, acting like a Ninjask as she snuck in and hid behind the door. She checked to make sure Ashley hadn't seen her before she locked the door and rushed to us with her tail wagging.

"Look! It's beautiful!" She yipped happily and unfolded the cloth around the ball. It truly was beautiful. The pattern matched perfectly with two red spots on the white belly, which crept up into the top in a few places. The thing that drew your eye though was the bright blue triangle on the top front. The paint the artist had used was a gorgeous shade of blue, but it also sparkled with glitter mixed in. It was perfect.

I gave Luca a smile and thanked her for getting it. She smiled happily, proud of herself for having pleased me as she wrapped the ball back up. I held out my pack with a pocket open and she slipped it in, completing our packing. I hefted the bag onto my shoulder and gave my girls a soft pet before we headed out to join my sister in the lobby.

"You ready yet...?" She sighed mockingly. Usually she was the one taking forever so I suppose I deserved it.

"Oh wait! I have to go to the bathroom!" I teased back, laughing as I got a glare for the inside joke.

It was 1pm by the time we left, but we still made it quite a ways before we made camp. Lady started to get tired after a while so she reluctantly agreed to take a rest in her ball so long as she got to sleep with us tonight. I wouldn't have said no even if I could, but Luca seemed to enjoy having me to herself again despite my sister walking right beside us. I blushed several times with Luca's affections. My sister was looking at me a little funny, no doubt wondering why Luca was holding my hand and looking so happy.

"She's my little girl." I said embarrassedly at one point, getting a shrug from Ashley, though I could still tell she was watching us curiously.

When night finally overtook us Lady made a return appearance and lit us fire. We had a light dinner and settled in for the night. Again I was a little embarrassed with my sister there. I had never taught Luca to be discreet around my family since we hadn't been home in a long time. I thought nothing of it but my sister snickered and gave me a bit of a strange look when Luca wiggled into the sleeping bag with me and gave a happy murr. Still, I was glad to have Luca in the bag with me though. She made a wonderful heater, and the night was a little chilly. It was a good thing we'd be heading to warmer climates soon.

With a blush still apparent in my cheeks I shut my eyes. Lady had curled up at mine and Luca's heads, wanting to be close. My sister wished us good night and I did the same to her. All five of us were quickly asleep, exhausted from the hike. Luca seemed to have pleasant dreams, but mine... were still haunted by what had happened at the contest. In the middle of the night I woke to find I had hugged Luca like a stuffed Teddiursa doll, clinging to a comfort from the dreams. I smiled seeing she hadn't woken, and even seemed to like being held. Though as she nuzzled my chest I hoped she didn't find something else in the morning... I managed to fall back asleep some time later as I gingerly stroked my Lucario's ears, playing with them and smiling at how it made Luca murr. I figured so long as no one was awake... why should I be embarrassed about holding my cute little girl so close?

Chapter End Notes:

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of me,Felix9. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

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